Dairy Farmers Stadium

The Willows Sports Complex, currently known as Dairy Farmers Stadium due to sponsorship rights, is a grass football stadium situated in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. It has historically been used mainly for rugby league, and is the home ground of the National Rugby League club the North Queensland Cowboys. It has also been used for rugby union. For sponsorship reasons, the stadium was previously known as Stockland Stadium (1995–98) and Malanda Stadium (1998).

History
Willows Sporting Complex

Prior to 1995, the stadium site was occupied by the Willows Sporting Complex. It hosted trotting paceway nights, and was the main pacing venue for the Townsville District. With the admission of the North Queensland Cowboys to the Australian Rugby League competition in 1995, the Willows site was transformed into a basic rugby league venue with a western grandstand as well as eastern side terraces. The northern and southern ends were sloped grass hills.

Stockland Stadium

The Willows Sports Complex was renamed 'Stockland Stadium' in 1995 through sponsorship linked with the North Queensland Cowboys. A contract was signed by the Stockland Trust Group for three years giving them the naming rights of the venue. The Joint Board of the old Willows Sports Complex (Townsville City Council and Thuringowa City Council) sub-leased the facility to the Cowboys Rugby League Football Limited, who manage the venue on a day-to-day basis. The first stage of development was funded by a combination of borrowings by the Joint Board, the Queensland Government Grants and a considerable amount of community and business donations.

The stadium was first used for any type of football for the North Queensland Cowboys first home game which attracted a crowd of 23,156, a good crowd by Australian Rugby League (now National Rugby League) standards. Crowds continued to push the capacity of the stadium and in 1996 the Stockland Stadium was renovated to include both northern and southern seating, where previously there had been only standing room.

Stockland ended their sponsorship after three years, which paved the way for the current sponsor, Dairy Farmers Limited.

Malanda Stadium

The North Queensland Cowboys home stadium sponsor Stockland finished up their sponsorship contract seeing out their three year deal. A new sponsorship deal was drawn up by the Cowboys, with local milking organisation Dairy Farmers who owned the local North Queensland milking dairy in the Tablelands. Season 1998 saw the stadium renamed with a new sponsorship deal 'Malanda Stadium'. But after its opening season the Dairy Milk corporation felt it more appropriate to rename the stadium 'Dairy Farmers Stadium', after Dairy Farmers bought out the Malanda Milk corporation.

Dairy Farmers Stadium

Many stages of redevelopment were taken on and gradually completed over the Cowboys growing success. The venue had changed from a disused Harness Racing facility to the current complex. The management and operation of the stadium was handed over to the Major Sports Facilities Authority in December 2003 in the hope for more cash inflow and government spending.

In 2005 the eastern terraces were extended, a new replay screen invested, public address system installed, 30 more corporate boxes and upgraded catering facilities as part of the funding injection. The lighting facilities were upgraded for night time broadcasts. 2006 saw the eastern, northern and southern grandstands receiving even further upgrades with the fitting of extra seating and the eastern terrace was extended completely taking over the old eastern hill.

During the 2011 NRL season a capacity crowd attended Darren Lockyer's record-setting 350th NRL match at Dairy Farmer's.

Attendance records
Uses
Rugby league

Dairy Farmers Stadium is predominantly used as a rugby league ground, being the home ground of the North Queensland Cowboys in the National Rugby League competition, and the North Queensland Young Guns in the Queensland Cup competition. The stadium has also hosted an Australian Test match against Papua New Guinea in 2000, an Australian XIII match in 2005, the Super League World 9's tournament in 1997 and charity fixtures with State of Origin Legend matches and Australia Legends v New Zealand Legends. It also hosted England vs Papua New Guinea in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.

Rugby union

The stadium was first used for first class rugby union when the touring British and Irish Lions team played a Queensland President's XV team in 2001. In 2003 a number of matches, which involved Japan in the Rugby Union World Cup were played at the ground, averaging a crowd of 19,249.. On 12 May 2006 the Queensland Reds played a Super 14 match at Dairy Farmers Stadium in front of a crowd of 10,580. In June 2007 the stadium hosted Australia A and Japan in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup.

Soccer
  • Australian Olyroos soccer friendly
  • In 2009, Dairy Farmers Stadium became home to Townsville's new club, the North Queensland Fury who played in the A-League, the nation's premier soccer competition. Their licence was revoked in March 2011.
Other
  • Kostya Tszyu's World Title boxing qualifier
  • Cricket Super 8's state championships
  • Crusty Demons tour.
  • Elton John performed at Dairy Farmers Stadium on 4 December 2007, as part of his "Knight under the stars" tour.